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In the name of faith

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It is dangerous to push ideologies that are oppressive and spread fear

People love to hate. But when they think that god is on their side, hatred becomes a matter of faith. That breeds violence. The Thirty Years’ War, Shia-Sunni conflicts over centuries, the persecution of Jewish people, and in more recent times, the rise of the Taliban, the Haqqani network, and the expanding tentacles of the Islamic State are all attributable to faith based on hatred.

No justification

Violence for its own sake can never be justified or rationalised. It too needs a breeding ground. The invocation of the divine in this is what becomes the ideological basis of such acts of inhumanity.

Contrast this with Hindu philosophy. The discourse between Krishna and Arjuna on the Kurukshetra battlefield is an act of persuasion in which Arjuna has to be convinced to strike at his cousins, the Kauravas. Krishna symbolises perfection; he represents no faith, he through logic convinces Arjuna to do his duty. The concept of duty is unrelated to any faith. The instinct of Arjuna is to abjure violence, hesitant to raise his bow and arrow against his cousins. The desire to do what is right and just is at the heart of the Hindu way of life. Our way of life constantly confronts us with choices and we must choose our path keeping in mind our duty to do what is right.

Even in the victory of good over evil, there is no sense of triumph. Violence, thus, is not just an act of last resort but is used as a weapon in defence. Our quest for the truth which emerges from our duty to do what is right requires introspection, analysing the problem, having a dialogue: all of which are essential before we act. That is why Hinduism imbibes tolerance as a philosophical tenet and allows for diversity of thought, central to our way of life: the reason for its survival over centuries.

In recent years, some protagonists of the Hindu religion have become intolerant, forsaken logic and made violence a weapon of offence as they seek to spread their footprint through imposition not assimilation.

Much is lost

A way of life, which is what Hinduism is, cannot be transformed into an ideology. In attempting to do so, the essence of Hinduism is lost. Ideologies can be muscular, oppressive, spread fear, seek obedience and leave no space for a conversation or dialogue.

The ideology of Hindutva has all these characteristics, alien to the Hindu religion. Hindutva’s evangelical zeal has betrayed the Hindu religion we espouse. Hindutva brigades, as they rampage across India, represent the forces of obscurantism rather than Hinduism. The majoritarian way of life and culture and the necessity to impose it on others is what drives them. The cow is sacred. Anyone perceived to be trading in it is lynched in the name of cow vigilantism. This becomes an excuse to victimise those who are Dalits or belong to the minority communities.

The law is violated as it is sought to be informally enforced through these cow vigilantes. These Hindutva elements also express outrage if a Muslim boy happens to marry a Hindu girl. They treat it as an unholy alliance and term it “love jihad”. Love is no longer a matter of personal choice but requires Hindutva’s acquiescence. Courts too have got into the act and in one such case in a habeas corpus proceeding declared the marriage void, despite the protests of the girl who happens to be an adult. In the midst of all this, if the state looks on nonchalantly, this majoritarian approach is perceived to be endorsed by it.

Religion is a matter of personal faith, with the state having no role to play. However, under the present regime, Hindutva forces are emboldened to push their agenda with impunity. The creed of tolerance is being replaced by intolerant spaces with a majoritarian mindset. Every aspect of a person’s life is sought to be benchmarked by norms set by these forces. Uniformity of conduct is being sought to replace the terrain of diversity our Republic symbolises. Our culinary choices, what we wear, what children should learn, diversity of expression in all forms, are all sought to be circumscribed through the identity of a particular cultural mindset, violating the essence of Hinduism.

For those of us who hold contrarian views, this onslaught on Hinduism poses a challenge. How we deal with it will determine the way forward for the Republic, for the abiding values of humanity and inclusiveness it has always stood for and defended. We cannot afford to fail since we will not get another chance to succeed.

Kapil Sibal is a former Union Minister and senior Congress leader

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 7:41:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/in-the-name-of-faith/article21011396.ece

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